What is “implied action” anyway? In general it is a “fuzzy” picture, presenting action in a hypothetical rather than a current sense. As readers are led to think abstractly, they are distanced from the present action. You don’t want them running down a theoretical rabbit trail, getting lost from the story’s live drama.
- Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
These three verbs—could, would, should—are abstract, referring to something that might exist, should exist, or usually exists. When that is the only verb that works, use it, but only after trying the active expression.
Here are a few examples:
- A The relaxing evening could turn turned into an all-night prayer vigil.
- We would then submit submitted to the tests, only to find everything normal.
- The symptoms would never come came while under surveillance.
- We could hear heard a few coins jingle. (Unless we’re deaf, readers already know we can hear. We need to say we heard not that we could.)
- I would walk walked around the lake.
- His girlfriend would call called to tell me she was still there.
- Use Real Action, Not Implied or Anticipated Action.
Most photographers throw away blurred images. People don’t like them. Even if you’re writing fiction, you want to fill your world with clear, sharp pictures, not something fuzzy, weakly defined. “Implied action” is a contradiction of terms. How can anything be an action if it’s only implied? It’s certainly not a “real” action. At best, it’s less motivating, so it’s not the kind of writing that stirs readers’ hearts and keeps them up at night.
- Replace supposition with fact.
“By George, I think I’ve got it.” Where did that expression came from? It might be a satirical remark against a king whose rule was being questioned. Or maybe it was like an oath, a substitute for saying, “by God.” Saying “might” leaves readers to decide what’s true, a responsibility that usually belongs to the writer. Do research. Try to learn the facts and save readers from uncertainty.
Attempting to be accurate, writers sometimes use expressions like, “Jason was around six feet tall.” Really? Exactly how tall is that? The problem is not the truth of the statement but that it leaves readers guessing. How close to six? Let’s see, he might be 5′10″. That’s close to six, isn’t it? No, maybe he’s taller. Could he be 6′3″? Leave out around and say he was six feet tall. Readers won’t send a nasty email if they find out he was only 5-11½.